OSHA Fines Wisconsin Shipping Yard For Lead Poisoning

Things aren’t looking great for environmental and safety hazards in homes and workplaces. Everyone knows the dangers of asbestos in paint, and one out of every five U.S. homes have radon levels at or above the EPA’s action levels, but in Superior, Wisconsin, it’s not just homes that have to worry.

The Fraser Shipyard was just slapped with a large fine for lead poisoning some of their workers. The Occupational Saftey and Hazard Administration (OSHA) fined the shipyard a proposed $1.395, a blow that came right after one of the poisoned workers sued.

It should come as no surprise, since OSHA shut down the shipyard only a few months ago, after inspectors found workers suffering from excessive lead poisonings and from exposure to other toxins, like asbestos, iron oxide, hexavalent chromium, arsenic and cadmium.

Workers at the yard have been toiling to retrofit the Herbert C. Jackson, a 690-foot bulk freighter drydocked at the shipyard at the western end of Lake Superior.

After the shutdown, James Holder, 48, sued the shipyard in federal court for unsafe levels of lead exposure. He claimed that dozens of other workers were also exposed to unsafe lead levels, and that management said that there was “nothing to be concerned about” when employees voiced complaints of unusual illness. This was, unfortunately, not true. Lead poisoning is known to cause anemia, brain damage, kidney defects, and gastrointestinal disease.

“Sampling results determined 14 workers had lead levels up to 20 times the exposure limit,” OSHA said at the end of last month. Further tests determined that 75% of a sample of 120 workers had elevated lead levels. They went on to say that the shipyard had engaged in “14 willful egregious health violations for each instance of overexposing a worker to lead,” in addition to five more willful violations that cover the lack of a lead monitoring program, lead compliance program, or respiratory protection.

“Fraser ignored federal regulations, its own corporate safety manuals and worker concerns,” said OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago, Ken Atha. “Such behavior is unacceptable. No worker should be put at risk from exposure to hazards that can cause permanent health issues to meet a contract deadline.”

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